Interlude: Clever device

This weekend I took the first-year Boy Scouts on an overnight camp and hike, so I have had no time to work on the Green Truck.

I’ll use this as an opportunity for a digression.  Working on Green awhile ago, Dear brought me a new toy, a nifty Nebo Leo flashlight.  I have to say I rather like this.  A magnet on one end allows it to attach to any steel plate (which is useful in Green); the same end has a folding clip that allows it to hang on a lip or a wire, which would make it a good camping device.

There are two LED lights, both at the end of a folding piece.  One is a floodlight, the other is a directional pen light.  The lights occupy the side and top of a swivel, which means it can point quite nicely.  The light is not as intense as a shop light, but the LED provides a nice neutral flood that renders colors really well, and I don’t have to hang or hold it.

Good job, Nebo.


Step 8: Fuel line

Step 8 is to disconnect the fuel line from the fuel pump.


As you can see here, the fuel pump is mechanically driven vacuum device, a design created well before the electrical fuel pumps in all vehicles today.  since it operated off of the crank, it sits low on the passenger side of the engine, low on the crankcase, and immediately in front of the crankcase vent tube.  It is also houses the rudimentary fuel filter that fed the engine.


There is a line running from both sides.  On disconnecting the front line—the one that runs from the filter up across the top of the motor to the carburetor—I was surprised to find that there was still a bit of fuel in the pump.  The line in from the left is the one running to the fuel tank.  Unscrewing the compression fitting from either side of the pump required both 7/16″ and 3/8″ combination wrenches to hold the two nuts (look closely).

I also decided that because the engine will be pulled, I might as well remove the pump-to-carburetor fuel line, though it is probably a later step.  Gearheads among you will notice that the line doesn’t look quite the way it should.

I’m sure my uncle spliced in the modern fuel filter. Grandpa certainly didn’t do it, because he left such things to his son and grandsons; I was the only one of the grandsons old enough to do so, and it would have terrified me to cut a fuel line, so Gene (or maybe some anonymous mechanic) must have done it.  Unfortunately that practical adaptation means the original brass line will not be put back onto the truck when everything is reassembled, though it certainly was a part of the vehicle I knew.  Fortunately, I can get a pre-bent new but OEM fuel line.  The compression fitting at the top end was disconnected from the carburetor body, like the lower end had been disconnected from the fuel filter.

You can see on one of the earlier images that middle of the fuel line was held in place with a clip bolted onto the thermostat housing on the top of the engine.  A few twists with the screwdriver and the clip came free.  The bolt and clip went back in place to prevent loss–and there is the disconnected fuel line.





Step 5-7. Coil removal, ground strap disconnect


Yesterday Dear brought by her sister and a couple of cousins. They are heading off to a family R&R.  After supper I had to grab a selfie with Green and James’s mom to use as leverage.  So c’mon, James, bring your honey and come for a working visit.  Your mother has now had a personal experience with the Green Truck; it’s your turn.

Steps 5-7 for pulling the engine begin a short series of about ten-second operations, so I’ll put several together in posts.

Step 5 reads “Disconnect the coil lead from distributor terminal and pull the coil high tension wire from the center of the distributor cap.”  I kept looking at the distributor and could not quite figure out what was wrong, other than the wire to the distributor was disconnected from the bottom of the condenser (coil), which you can see in the photo left below.  I won’t keep you in suspense—notice in the first image that some time in the past someone messed up the wire pattern on the distributor.  Notice where the wires run? The second one shows the high-tension wire as it should be placed from the bottom of the coil to the center of the distributor, and the wire for the n.3 cylinder back in place.

Someone is sure to notice in that second image above that the wire to the condenser coil is back in place (I removed it in the last post). That’s because the photos are out of order.  Sorry.

Spark plug wires are routinely replaced in a tuneup, so I figure pulling and tossing these won’t be an infraction of my solemn vow to maintain OEM (original equipment manufacturer) use.


Step 6 was to remove the coil itself from the passenger side of the engine.  That’s easy, because as you can see here, it simply bolts in place to the head, and fifteen seconds of work with a combination wrench was all it took—until I remembered the wire to the negative pole was still connected to the stud on the side of the distributor.  I found that it required a 11/64 wrench, which I don’t have, but a 6-inch crescent wrench works just fine. So now the coil is off and set aside to clean up later.




Step 7 was another fifteen-second job: removing the bolt from the ground strap from the starter to the vehicle frame; instead, it took nearly two hours.  The bolt goes through the top of the frame and gets plenty of splashed irrigation-ditch mud and dirt-road dust.  Quite simply, the bolt shaft and threads had rusted quite effectively.  I could turn the entire bolt in its hole, but you can see that there was no easy way to hold the bolt head and get the wrench to turn the nut below—especially because it required real torque to break loose and turn the nut through the rust on the bolt shaft.


I could not brace the bolt head from above and at the same time get at the nut from the creeper underneath. I needed another pair of hands, so I press-ganged Daughter 1 who was down for the weekend, for the top job.  She agreed to don the Sweatshirt of Manual Competence and hold the socket wrench, only on the condition that I feature her enabling heroism prominently in The Green Truck blog posting.  Her hand appears above; what greater accolade could she wish?


Step 4c: Starter/coil wiring

The next step in the engine pull will be to dink around disconnecting the wires from the starter, condenser coil, and spark plugs.  I could yank them all off and figure out what goes where when I put things together, but if one is documenting the process, what’s the fun in that?

In the first image below is the starter, set against the bottom of the motor on the passenger side so that it can engage the transmission flywheel to crank the engine to life.  Notice the stud on the top with two wires leading to it?  The thick wire leads from the battery.  The one below it, which runs up and across the engine compartment and high on the firewall, is the ignition-switch cable.  The small wire branching off goes to the coil.

A quick turn or two with the wrench and the wires pull free.

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Here you can see them in place and removed (I’ll bet you were dying to see that).

The small wire forking from the starter and running out of the image to the condenser coil was even easier, but since it attaches to the negative pole at the bottom of the coil, it wasn’t full of grime and came off easily.

So, that’s the end of step 4.  Only 24 steps left to go—and then disassembly begins.



Step 4b: Battery wires

With the radiator out and the generator removed, the next step specified by the shop manual is:

4. Remove the battery cable and ammeter wire from the starter switch terminal. On vehicles equipped with push button starter [like Green], remove battery and ammeter wire from large terminal on solenoid and starter switch wire from small terminal. Tape ends of battery cable to prevent possibility of shorting.

Now, let’s face it—Green hasn’t turned over in years.  I seriously doubt that there is a single free electron in the battery anywhere.  Digression for personal story.

One day on Hilltop, Grandpa and I climbed in the truck for some errand.  To those of you who remember, it was parked nose-in by the path leading from the house to the corral.  For some reason the starter would not crank at all.  Grandpa was driving and told me to go get the jumper cables and hook up the battery while he went to get his massive white Lincoln (Grandma had the black one), yelling back at me as he shuffled off “it’s under your feet!”  Now, knowing full well what an automotive battery looked like and how it worked, I knew the battery wasn’t under my feet, it was beside the engine.  I got the cables from the garage and raised Green’s hood to hook up the battery.  I looked inside–and couldn’t see a battery anywhere.  Beginning to feel that  Grandpa would think I was an inept city kid, I hunted high and low through the engine compartment.  By this time Grandpa eased up his roaring Lincoln between green and the overgrown fitzer (juniper) bushes that bordered the pasture, expecting me to just hook everything up and get going.  One of the hardest things I ever had to do was to admit to my grandfather that I could not see the battery anywhere.  I felt really embarrassed.  By then I was seated inside, so I closed the door slightly so he could pull the nose of the Lincoln up alongside the passenger door.  Then he shuffled over in his straw hat, smacked my legs with a “git out’th way”, no doubt thinking his oldest grandson was an inept city kid—and moved the passenger-side floor mat (Green had one at that point).  On the floor was a handle for a rectangular pull panel.  I was speechless—the battery was inside the cab after all.

Some time later, I remember, Green got a new battery.  I remember, because I had to heft it into place; Grandpa knew hard work as a farm kid, but Grandpa didn’t heft things at that point in time.  Forty years later, I’m sure this is the same battery.  It will absolutely have to be replaced, so I might as well pull it entirely.  Green has not had a floor mat in decades, so the battery panel is simple enough to find, just inside the passenger door.

The battery is held in place by a frame which is screwed down on either end.  The metal was corroded badly enough that it required a goodly portion of WD-40 to loosen things enough to get the nuts off the threaded rods.  Once that was done, removing the retaining frame was a matter of lifting it off.

My lower back has bothered me for better than a year now, so it was now my turn to get someone younger to do the work.  Son 2 lifted out the battery for me that I am pretty sure I set in place in 1975.  That is a bit of a challenge and I was grateful to leave it to a younger soul.

Notice the knockouts on the top that record the date.  The 5 has been pulled out, so since Green almost certainly did not get a battery in 1985 (no one was spending a dime on him at that point), I’m sure it dates to the encounter described above.

Battery 6


Step 4a: Alternator v. generator

The old Chevrolet in-line six “stovebolt” engines don’t have an alternator to produce current for the vehicle, they have instead a real generator.  It works the same way as an alternator, drawing kinetic energy from a drive belt turned by the crank and turning the pulley wheel at the front of the generator.  The generator was already out of the Green Truck when I got him, but since it would have to be removed at about this point in pulling the engine I might as well talk about it here.

Like other components, the generator has a serial number as well, stamped on a zinc plate that is riveted to the side of the casing.


As nearly as I can make out, the serial number is 1102711x 9H2.  The x stands in place of a character that has been obliterated by a scraping strike to the plate surface.


The generator was reportedly the only recipient of mechanical attention when my uncle had the vehicle parked in his barnyard.  He had taken it out and reportedly had it rebuilt, so the bearings and windings inside run smooth as silk.  However, because it was found on his front porch when I picked up the truck last year (thanks, cousin Shane), I am scrambling to locate the mounting bolts.  I think the ones pictured here, sitting on the fender inside the engine compartment, may be the critters I need.


All three bolts fit in the holes, but one is too short and another is an SAE (or fine thread) without a nut.  That matches the kind of baling-wire maintenance the truck endured, but it means I’ll replace at least one of the bolts so that they at least match.

Anyway, nowhere in the shop manual does it say to remove the generator prior to pulling the engine, but it now sits stored neatly in my tool chest, ready to be re-mounted following the rebuild.

Step 3b: Remove radiator support.

With the radiator out, the next thing was to remove the radiator support or frame.   Both sides are identical, so I’ll show only one.

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The radiator removed in Step 3a, showing the radiator support still in place.

At both sides of the frame, near the top, the radiator support has a flange or wings welded to it.  This provide rigidity. and an anchor on a second plane from the bolts that run up the sides.

Support 1

Screws anchoring the radiator support to the fenders (taken before the radiator was removed).

The sides of the radiator support frame are anchored through the fender skirt, which forms the inside of the engine compartment, and into the fender support.  The latter is a metal rib that increases stiffness to a very large expanse of sheet metal.  Years later this would be redesigned, but right now this is what I have to work with.

Support 2

Radiator-support attachment bolts from the inside of the passenger-side fender

The picture here shows the six radiator-support bolts on the passenger side.  There are six just the same on the driver side.  The two bolts near the bottom of the image bolt into the through the skirt and into the radiator support itself.  The two in the center, at the inside end of the fender support, also bolt into the support.

The two bolts at the top of the image—one of which is behind the headlight wiring that comes through the fender skirt wall—are the bolts on the flange shown in the external shot, above.  The bolts thread down, so that the nuts are inside.

Support 3







Even on the creeper, the bolts are a full arm’s-length above me, with my right ear on the tire. No room at all for two arms.

A 7/16-inch socket made short work of removing the bolts.  The nuts at the top were rusted well in place.  A shot of WD-40 helped loosen three of them, but created another problem.

The top bolts are not anchored into anything, so to loosen the nuts I had to keep the bolts from turning.  Through the good offices of Daughter 4, who held a wrench at the top, I got the nuts and washers off of three.  The fourth one was too rusted and simple snapped, so I’ll be replacing at least one bolt and nut set.




With the bolts removed, the frame tipped forward, loose, and could be lifted out.  The base of the support has a plate with two studs that go through similar holes in the frame cross-member.  This holds the support in place and keeps it from sitting directly on the frame.

Everything bolts together to provide mutual support and rigidity.  The radiator support provides an anchor for the fender skirt, which in turn supports the fender.  So I’ve pulled apart the central support and the fenders are getting a little loose—well, looser; this is, after all, a rattling, old truck. For the sake of integrity, once the images were shot, I put all the bolts back into the fender skit/fender holes.

Support 6

With the radiator and radiator support removed, I have direct access to the front of the engine.  That will give a little more space to work as I go to work on hoses and wiring.

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Step 3a: Remove Radiator

I am back again, tired of writing on the book and needing a break.  If I am to reach my goal of having the engine rebuilt by the time school starts in the fall I have to get serious about pulling the engine from Green for a rebuild.

The service manual stated that the first order of business is to remove the radiator.  Actually, it says the first step is to drain the fluids; the second is to unbolt and remove the hood, but I don’t have anywhere to store it right now, so I plan to work under it until whatever else can be done first is done.  When the engine is ready to lift, then it will come off.

So this starts with step 3 (and I’ll number things to follow the service manual).  Thankfully removing a radiator is a simple function. Unfortunately, because this is such a straightforward job there isn’t much interesting that can be said about the process.

Rad 1

The radiator in place.

Obviously the first step is to remove the upper and lower hoses.  Hose clamps are straightforward:  a flat screwdriver loosens the clamp.  That part was simple, but the ends of both hoses have not been moved in quite awhile. Both required a bit of prying to get them off the nipples.

The wiring on Green is absolutely original (and will absolutely be replaced), but even the purest motorhead knows that hoses are almost never original on a vehicle this old.  They take far more punishment from the heating and cooling every time the motor is started than wiring ever does. I was a bit surprised, however, to notice that the lower hose had been replaced rather more recently than I had anticipated.  Beneath the clamp part of the paper label was clearly readable.  Though the hoses will certainly be replaced in the rebuild and these will be tossed, I plan to hold onto everything until I finish, just in case I need to consult “how did they do that” on something.

The radiator is secured to the back of the radiator frame by three bolts up either side.  The frame is a welded and bent C-channel.  The bolts pass through the flange on the radiator and into square nuts that sit in a socket that wraps around the sides which in turn seems to be welded to the frame.  I forgot to photograph those, but I get the impression that one could pry the folded steel leaves from around the nuts and pull them out; perhaps it was to simplify replacement if the threads stripped.

The bolts thread through from the engine compartment.  They are identical on both sides so only one is shown here.  They were not seized at all, though they undoubtedly have not been removed since the original 216ci motor was replaced, some time after 1955.

Rad 9

Though they were not hard to remove and would have gone back in place with a bit of effort, I still gave the threads of each bolt a good brushing with a brass brush, then a quick coating of WD-40 as an anti-rust, anti-corrosion treatment.  Here are a pair of before and after shots of one bolt, though frankly it doesn’t show much.

I was a bit surprised to find that the bolts were mismatched.  The one in this image is probably original, with an integrated washer cast onto the head.  At least two of the bolts were just . . . bolts, with regular washers.

It was impossible to photograph myself while lifting the radiator, so you’ll have to trust me that I did it all by myself.  I put back the drain plug, though it is clear that the fiber-core freeze plug will eventually have to be replaced.

Rad 8

With the radiator out I could clear out the decades of decomposed detritus that are  in the frame, which is a shallow U.  This is the dust of hay fields, decayed leaves and seeds from the orchard, water from the springs, and who knows what other parts of Hilltop and the farm.  I have to say I got a bit nostalgic as I scooped it out, because I was literally touching my childhood again—not too nostalgic, though; I did toss it.

Rad 12

With the radiator out, it was a simple matter to remove the fan belt.  This, it turns out, had also been replaced at some time in the past.  The original belt configuration was to have one belt drive the fan from the power train, then to have a second belt from the fan drive the generator.   Though there are two channels on the fan pulley, it is clear from the shape and size of the belt that it was driving both the fan and the generator from the drive train.  It is not an optimal arrangement and might explain why it could be so hard to start Green sometimes—the three-corner shape does not have enough contact with the pulley to drive the generator effectively.

Removing the radiator was fairly simple.  Next step is to unbolt and pull the radiator frame.

Blinded by the light.

Sorry for the delay in posting.  This fall has been a cycle of stress and activity. Green therapy has taken a lower priority—like, not at all.

But, the other day I was moving something in the walkway between Green and the workbench and clipped the front of the radiator pretty well.  That set me thinking that before I go too far, it might be well to deal with the headlights and running lights.  Both of them are glass, not plastic, and are pretty exposed targets.  At some point—hopefully sooner than later—I need to pull a shop crane in place to lift the motor from the engine compartment, and I run the risk of something smacking the glass headlights.

Thankfully, this is an old truck, so nearly everything requires nothing more complex than a flat screwdriver.  When Green was assembled, a Phillips screwdriver was fairly radical automotive design.  None of these star bits, Allen bits, retaining clips and other modern inconveniences.  If it didn’t require a screw, it was welded or bolted–end of story.  So, fishing out a screwdriver, I went at the retaining frames to see if I could get things out before something broke.  There was a single screw visible at the bottom of the ring; the top is held in place by a tongue in a slot.  Simple.

For the headlights, you can see here that the chrome bezel came off easily.  Behind it is two other rings.  The one on the front holds the headlamp in place and sets the direction of the headlight in relation to the road.  One side has a spring, the other a screw to control left-right repositioning.  Once that was removed the headlight itself came right out.  So did the miscellaneous wasp nests.

The inner ring is the housing, though not a reflector; the back of the lamp itself is the reflector.  Modern headlights are composites.  To change one in our Chevy Sonic, one unclips the assembly from the back of the headlight assembly, pulls out the lamp assembly, swaps the bulb, and clips everything back together.  The assembly fits into the ABS plastic reflector, which is fronted by clear polycarbonate.

In Green the entire headlight is a lightbulb itself.  It has a three-pronged plug into the connector, but the connector is merely shoved behind the lightbulb.  Nothing is sealed, and the wires are simply knotted so that they are not pulled out of the housing in the front fender.  Talk about elegantly simple, but weatherproof?  No.

The front running lights are a little different.  Each one has a glass bezel that is held onto the metal reflector, between which sits a rubber gasket to close off the whole light to the elements.  You can see here that the gasket is essentially no more.  Years of sitting out in the heating-cooling weather cycle has made it cockled and brittle.  Behind the bezel sits a real glass bulb with an amber coating, but again, with the connector wires merely shoved through the back.

So there–I’ve more or less carefully removed the glass that could be broken as I begin work on the engine. If this was a full restoration I’d probably paint the headlight sockets when the fenders were painted, but I’ll have to think about that.  Green has to have working lights, but the goal is merely to bring him back into running order good enough to pass a state inspection.  Paint behind the headlights would be optional.


Driving Cornwall, Walking London.

The blog has experienced a bit of suspension as I made a trip to England and France this month. I was the historian (color commentary) for the first Community on the Go trip abroad, an excursion to London, Normandy, and Paris to see the sites of Operation Overlord, the invasion of France during WWII.

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Other than these few pictures I’ll leave recounting the trip for another venue, but since this is a blog about a truck, there is room for automotive comment.

I took the opportunity to arrive a few days early, hired a car, and drove out to the end of Cornwall and the site of the family’s origin.

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The trusty steed, Audi.

I picked up a car at Heathrow International and had to adapt immediately to driving on the right side of the vehicle and left side of the road.  I talked to myself nearly constantly for three days, reminding myself to turn into the left lane, to look to the right at intersections, and to interpret road and street signs.

The drive from London across Devon and through Cornwall was spectacular, even if it was November. The landscape was livid green, the kind of green that North America gets only in spring.


Southwest along the M5, outside of Taunton

Once I got off the M4 and M5, the driving got positively interesting.  Google Maps is a great tool, but it doesn’t think “this is a ridiculously narrow, unmarked lane in the middle of nowhere” for you.  The plotted route eventually took me down farm roads through the hedgerow country that were, quite frankly, a little nerve wracking. The roads are narrow enough that I regularly drove with the shrubbery leaving wet traces down the side of the car and me worrying about the liability inherent in rental agreements. These are two-way roads in name only; the only way to drive them is to employ the car-length wide spots in these roads, the only points at which two vehicles can pass each other without a head-on collision.  I did that fairly frequently and occasionally backed up to the closest one after coming nose-to-nose with another driver.  My host said that proves I am not a local—locals just sit and stare at each other, waiting for the other to move back.

The towns were not much better. I guess that comes from having building sites laid out in the days when distance and speed was measured on a walking scale, well before automobiles could be even imagined. Now that we sit in our little wheeled boxes, the physical setting and needsi to see around the corners historic buildings makes for quite a challenge. The lack of walkways is unsettling, but then traffic is not heavy in St Keverne.

I made it through the countryside and even through urban driving in Plymouth.  THAT was an experience I won’t forget. I was busy enough driving on the right—er, correct—side of the road and juggling all the variables while trying to navigate that I did not take the opportunity for a single photograph.  For someone used to straight streets, right-angle intersections, and street signs posted close to the road, it was a real challenge.

But, after three days of driving entirely on my own I made it back to London, without damage and without incident.

I’d love to go back.  It was spectacular trip, but I have no more trips planned.  This year the task is to get back into the Green Truck.